Back Comments (4) Share:
Facebook Button
There have been plenty of decent sci-fi series over the past few years. From Earth based X-Files and The 4400, to the space-based Star Trek incarnations. Of the shows that are set in the future—in space—one of my favourite has to be Battlestar Galactica, but amidst these various series that hit our small screen, an Australian production started up called Farscape. Boasting wild and imaginative new universes, an interesting cast of mixed humans and aliens and compelling stories founded on a clever script and solid story arcs. After four seasons the series was brought to an unsatisfying close but—as with many TV series these days—fans pleaded for it to be resurrected and so now we have a fifth mini-series to round things off once and for all. But for now I present the fourth season of Farscape.

Farscape Season 4

Film


Summing up the first three seasons of Farscape is not an easy task, so I am giving ample forewarning of unintentional spoilers that may occur. If you are a stranger to Farscape, I would strongly recommend catching an episode on TV to see if you like it and then taking the plunge from the first season onwards. To come in now, for the final series, would be a difficult task to say the least. I provide the following introduction more as a refresher course for those who may have missed some of the key episodes or may have forgotten some of what has happened over the last few years.

Commander John Crichton is an astronaut. During his test flight of the futuristic Farscape One module, he gets caught up in a wormhole and is swept halfway across the galaxy. Soon he finds himself stuck billions of miles away from his home planet, Earth, desperately trying to stay alive and searching for a way to get home. In the outer reaches of space he comes across a ship, Moya, full of escaped prisoners and piloted by a female ex-Peacekeeper called Aeryn Sun. They take him in and eventually end up on the run themselves from the Peacekeepers.

The last three seasons have seen many things happen to Crichton and his new friends. He himself has undergone many changes, the most significant of which is probably being split into two equal parts (who both went their own separate ways). His relationship with Aeryn has also developed and, although it was made infinitely more complicated by his being split in two, this actually led to her consummating the relationship with one of them. As TV series go, what happens next is fairly predictable, but no less dramatic—this Crichton twin dies a hero's death. Aeryn is eventually reunited with the other twin, but things are simply not the same for her. Crichton has other problems to worry about though. He realises that, in order to get home, he needs to learn about wormholes. The first breakthrough he has is when he gains the interest of the 'ancients', who implant him with the requisite knowledge about wormholes, but (again, as is often the case in TV series) do not let him access the information until he is 'ready to use it wisely'. This not only leaves him still unable to return home but it gains the attention of several individuals with rather more nefarious plans in mind for the wormhole knowledge—they want to use them as weapons.

Firstly we have Scorpius, a half-breed scientist who has a strange driveshaft in his head that needs to be replenished frequently in order to keep him lucid. His quest to recover the information contained in Crichton's head becomes something of an obsession, leading ultimately to him torturing Crichton terribly before he and the other members of his crew break free and sabotage Scorpius's command vessel. Despite his roguish behaviour, Scorpius answers to a higher power: the Peacekeeper Commandant Mele-On Grayza, who is also after the same information and is not too impressed by the backfiring of Scorpius' scheming.

Throughout his adventures, Crichton has had more than just the help of Aeryn. Her ship-full of prisoners turned out to be a ship full of friends, with D'Argo, a Luxan warrior who was framed for the murder of his wife by the Peacekeepers, a young Nebari called Chiana—the one with a pale pallor with a blue tinge—who was recently possessed by a creature that left her with curse that works kind of like spider-sense, and a small old Yoda-like creature called Rygal, who is determined to regain his throne after he was deposed on his home world. There were others, too, like the redhead Jool, who has the ability to melt steel with her scream, and a mysterious old woman with a third eye in her forehead who practises her own sort of voodoo, often seemingly to the detriment of Crichton.

Farscape Season 4
The end of the third season saw the old woman divulge a secret to Crichton: Aeryn was pregnant. Unfortunately, he found out too late as he was in the process of trying to return to Earth in his Farscape One module through a wormhole that he had made. The others had all gone their separate ways, including Aeryn who had gone off on her own. Unable to stop her or follow her Crichton proceeds through the wormhole but when he does he finds himself, once again, lost in the middle of nowhere. On paper, the end to season three makes it seem difficult to reunite the characters easily but to be honest, there are plenty of convoluted avenues the scriptwriters could have taken. In season four, you will find that they take the easiest options—explain as little as possible—with the characters basically 'bumping into one another' over the course of the first few episodes. Ok, so that seems difficult to believe (given the vast reaches of space that they guys are lost in) but none of that matters as it is good to have them back together, with Crichton, D'Argo, Chiana, Pilot, Rygel and Aeryn all on Moya.

We see a couple of familiar faces return for a brief dip into the action—including Jool (but she basically gets substituted out in favour of a new girl: Sikozu, who has is the perfect antithesis to Chiana's grey-blue pale demeanour—she's practically glazed bronze with orange-red hair and bright green eyes) and Stark (the guy with the 'eye patch'), who returns from his quest. Once they get Moya back and Aeryn returns to the fold (still pregnant, although that one's complicated) it is business as normal, with them on the run from the evil Commandant and getting into all manner of trouble on various different planets. Crichton is still trying to figure out wormholes (although he is now making significant progress) and Aeryn is suffering a rather unusual pregnancy, and having understandable issues in her relationship with Crichton. D'Argo is still driven by his quest to avenge his wife's murder, but things take an unexpected turn.

There are also some interesting happenings with Scorpius, who had previously inserted a psychic clone of himself into Crichton's mind during torture. Now both the real Scorpius and his ethereal counterpart suffer drastic character developments, which fans will be highly interested to follow. Whilst the series is packed with standalone episodes (like the trip to the lava planet or the weird Super Mario Brothers episode) there are definitely big things happening to the central characters in this show (like the multi-episode Earth-bound stories) and the main story arc slowly builds in momentum to its abrasive conclusion—the one which fans hated so much and cried out to be changed. In my opinion, the ending to this season was a bad idea, not so much leaving things on a cliff-hanger as shattering the worlds of all the fans out there that have followed this series faithfully for so many episodes. Thankfully the Peacekeeper Wars saw the cast reunited for one last battle but unfortunately those episodes are not included on this box set, so once you finish the final season four episode, you will no doubt find yourself desperate to get a hold of the more palatable Farscape finale, the Peacekeeper Wars. All in all though, season four is a strong effort from a vibrant show, marred only by its shock climax.

Video


Farscape season four is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that generally looks excellent. I believe that it is the first of the Farscape series to be presented in widescreen, and it looks all the better for it. The detail is generally good, particularly on the close-ups, although some scenes do exhibit more softness than others. There is also some noticeable edge enhancement but this is negligible, and grain is kept to a minimum (the camcorder moments in the Super Mario Bros episode are particularly bad, but expectedly so). The colour scheme is broad and luscious, with all of the wonderfully imagined environments and colourful characters brought alive by the keen representation of the varied palette. Blacks are reasonably decent and there was no noticeable transfer damage whatsoever.

Farscape Season 4

Audio


Farscape season four is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that is a worthy investment. The dialogue is reasonably clear, although there are noticeable instances where the balance is shifted a little too far in favour of the surrounds, making speech somewhat quiet from time to time. The score is quite interesting—tense in all of the right places, but just as able to cater for the more comedic moments. Effects-wise this show provides plenty of fuel for the surround speakers (from gun battles to massive explosions) and even a little bass. Aside from the slight bias in favour of the action, and at the expense of the vocals, this is generally a good soundtrack and a welcome six-speaker surround sound addition.

Extras


On most of the discs there are extra features. The first disc contains an audio commentary for the season premiere with the director Andrew Prowse and actress Gigi Edgley (who plays Chiana). They talk about the big finale to season three and how they tried to put things back together. It is quite an interesting chat, with Gigi offering up some nice anecdotes about the fun on the set. Then we have 'The Story So Farscape', a twenty-three minute featurette noting everything of significance that has happened so far (it was fairly useful when I needed to sum up what had happened in the previous seasons). We get plenty of detail (like the characters' full names—Dominar Rygal XVI and Joolvshko Tunai Fenta Hovalis etc.) and an overview of what each of the central heroes has been through, along with a brief summary of what the bad guys have been up to. It is simply no substitute for watching the other seasons in their entirety, but for the purposes of refreshing your memory or catching up on a couple of episodes you may have missed the significance of, this is ideal.

We also get eight minutes of deleted scenes (all related to the relevant episodes on this disc—the first two in the season). We get more Scorpius, more bearded Crichton and an interesting segment with D'Argo talking about his vendetta following the murder of his wife but basically they are all extended scenes and you can see why they cut them short. Still, fans will love the extra footage and they are well worth a once-over. They are also presented in anamorphic widescreen, which is not that common when you get deleted footage and makes a welcome change. There is an interview with Anthony Simcoe (D'Argo), who talks about working on the show, how packed the schedule is and what season 4 has in store for us. It is intercut with far too much footage from the season itself, which gets a bit irritating after a while since it is not in the least bit related to what he is actually talking about, but it is still quite a nice addition to have.

The gallery features concept art for the various characters, actor stills, close-up props photos and shots of the set. This first gallery carries the artwork for the first five episodes, split into separate sections for each one of them. ‘Farscape Facts’ is a text-based log of trivia from the first few episodes, like the fact that the beach scenes were filmed on Bondi beach, the fact the Crichton's beard was real and that the Tavlek warrior costumes (which feature helmets shaped like the heads of the Alien creatures) left the actors all but blind inside because they had no eye slits. Again the facts cover the first two discs' worth of episodes. Finally on this disc we get profiles of some of the main characters: Aeryn Sun, Chiana, Pilot, Rygel XVI and Stark. These are text-based extras which simply sum up what fans would already know, although they do mark a nice piece of reference material, particularly if you want a more detailed refresher course than the 'Story So Farscape' option.

On the third disc we get a commentary on the 'John Quixote' episode, with the director Tony Tiles and the puppet-master Sean Masterson, discussing the various puppet effects, the unusual plot line and providing plenty of technical background into the production. It is a little on the dry side, but quite chirpy nonetheless. On the fourth disc we get a misleadingly-titled visual FX commentary which is merely a ten minute look at certain effects shots (sometimes in their conceptual state—which is the most interesting aspect), with very dry, almost monotonous technical commentary over the top. There is a sixteen-minute interview with star Claudia Black, who plays Aeryn Sun. She talks about how what she learnt from doing this show (the only long-running part she has ever played) and what she has encountered in the film and TV industry. Fans will be simply delighted to get so long with the lovely lead heroine, discussing everything from the effects to the fun had on the set. Thankfully it also has far fewer clips from the show itself when compared to some of the other interviews.

Farscape Season 4
We get four minutes of deleted scenes from these episodes, including more Aeryn (telling her secret to Chiana) and more from the episode when the new girl falls in love. These are nothing particularly special, but still worth watching once. There is a swearing feature that enables you to learn the various alternative profanities offered up by the show (including blotching, crank, dren and frak—which appears to be used in the new Battlestar Galactica series) with the option to play examples of them being used. Once again we get facts, a gallery and character profiles for the relevant episodes. The fifth disc has a commentary on 'Unrealised Reality' with actor Anthony Simcoe and director Andrew Prowse. Both of them are quite dry (as you could tell from the Simcoe interview) but this commentary is still worth a listen, even if it is not as good as the others.

On disc six we get a ten-minute interview with Wayne Pygram, who plays Scorpius. He discusses how he started in the industry, his form of 'untrained acting', his audition, how he made the character of Scorpius in the first place, the many changes that he has undergone over the seasons and his experiences on the production. It is quite revealing to hear from this actor out of character (and interesting to see him out of make-up) and comes as a worthy addition to the extras. There are eight minutes of deleted scenes from these episodes, with plenty more from the 'return home' storyline (that runs over a few episodes) but nothing really that adds anything of significance to the show. Again, they are worth a look.

There is a featurette on make-up tests that runs at seven minutes and looks at the original make-up tests and the corresponding concept art that was done before the production was properly started. Most of the characters look pretty-much like they do now, with D'Argo having different coloured eyes, Zhaan (the blue woman who we lost earlier in the series) having a different skull and Chiana having a slightly different hairstyle. Moya's Menu provides a list of (imaginative) food substances from the series, an explanation of what they are, and the option to play and example from the show of them being talked about (or eaten). It is much like the swearing facility on the disc three extras. We also get facts and a gallery on this disc.

Disc eight has another audio commentary with Anthony Simcoe (D'Argo) and the director Andrew Prowse, again slightly dry but made more interesting by the significant of the episode. There is an interview with Gigi Edgley (Chiana), running at twelve minutes in length and having her discuss everything from how she got into this show to how she has loved dressing up ever since she was a child. It's strange to see her out of makeup—as it was for Andrew Simcoe—and it is lovely to hear her background (growing up on a farm) with lots of anecdotes about her childhood and her early 'experiences' with aliens thanks to her mum. She is easily as crazy as her character but also just as sweet.

There are seventeen minutes of deleted scenes, almost all of which are from the Earth-bound segments again. They are not really very good this time around, because they are mostly extra camcorder footage, and the scene where the kid tries to get Chiana naked is a little weird (although, I suppose, understandable). There is also an alien slang option, as per the previous dictionary features (with examples), technical terms of the Farscape universe, Peacekeeper profiles, more facts and a gallery.

Finally (phew), the tenth and last disc has a commentary on the season finale with the director Andrew Prowse and actress Gigi Edgley (Chiana). As was shown by their first pairing (on the season premiere) these two have nice chemistry, with Prowse offering up the technical know-how (and praise of his co-commentator) and Gigi edging more in the direction of anecdotal input. They talk about the end of the season, being angry that it was brought to such an abrupt conclusion by the studios and what it was like to cram so much in to just one episode. There are four minutes of deleted scenes from the last couple of episodes, with plenty more from the new girl, Sikozu, and a little more Scorpius, along with an extra minute of Crichton and Aeryn talking. Nothing special.

There is a 'Farwell' featurette that runs at eighteen minutes in length and looks at this, the final season (apart from the Peacekeeper miniseries). Claudia Black talks about how they did not know until almost the end of season four that the series was not being picked up for a fifth run. Most of the actors (including Anthony, Gigi and Wayne) discuss their last day at work (which happened to be during episode seventeen because the others had been filmed first), how it felt to be finishing up on the show and the shock it was when they found out it was all over. It is quite a tear-jerking little featurette that will have fans crying out once more at the disappointment of the end of this show.

The Farscape outtakes section runs at about seven minutes in length and starts merely with a series of clips from the show, continuing on to see line-fluffs, swearing and on-set goofs. As far as I can tell, none of them come from this particular season, and they don't really keep you in hysterics for the whole duration but do include a few funny moments (more off-set than on). Finally we get a list of 'Terms of the Uncharted Territory', facts and a gallery to round off the disc.

Farscape Season 4

Overall


Farscape is an imaginative sci-fi fantasy that has gathered a much-deserved and fairly large following. Season four is a strong addition to the fold, although the finale does leave a bitter taste in your mouth. The DVD presentation is pretty good, with a solid video transfer and a reasonable Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but it is the fact that the set is simply chock full of extras (every single extra you could want) that makes this release such a worthy purchase (although it is a shame that they did not throw in the Peacekeeper Wars episodes as a more palatable end to the franchise). Fans should already have their copy of this one on order, but newcomers should probably try and catch some previous episodes and then consider purchasing this one.


Links: